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21 January 2016

The need for the Minister for Defence to amend eligibility criteria for the Red Cross disbursement for flood relief for businesses.


In the immediate aftermath of Storm Desmond at the beginning of December 2015, the Government approved the allocation of €5m to be distributed as emergency humanitarian support to small businesses which through no fault of their own have been unable to secure flood insurance and had been flooded during the period of 4th December 2015 to 17th December 2015..

Subsequent to the storms which continued into late December and early January, the Government decided to expand thescheme to cover the period of December 2015 to January 2016. It was also decided to allow community, voluntary and sporting organisations who could not obtain flood insurance and had suffered flood damage to their premises, to apply for assistance.

The scheme, which is being administered by the Irish Red Cross Society, provides a once-off ex-gratia contribution towards the costs of returning business premises to their pre-flood condition including the replacement of flooring, fixtures and fittings and damaged stock. It does not cover repairs to football pitches, race tracks or golf courses affected by the floods. The scheme does not provide a contribution to loss of earnings or loss of business good-will. The scheme is not intended to act as a compensation for loss nor is it intended to provide an alternative to insurance cover.

The emergency nature of the flooding incident required an urgent response to try to make payments to small businesses for business continuity purposes in the run-up to Christmas. A two stage approach was agreed by Government. The first stage provides a contribution of up to €5,000 per property, depending on the scale of damage incurred. Applications under the €5,000 threshold are being paid following a quick verification process between the Irish Red Cross and the local authority responsible for the area in which the business was flooded.

The second stage of the scheme provides a means to seek further support of up to €20,000 per property. This involves a more lengthy process requiring a detailed assessment of the damage by loss assessors appointed for this purpose by the Irish Red Cross.

The total level of support available for both stages combined is capped at €20,000 per property. Application forms for the scheme are available on the Irish Red Cross website.

I want to thank the Irish Red Cross for the work they are doing in ensuring that applications are processed and payments are being disbursed in a speedy manner. While the Irish Red Cross is an independent charitable organisation, the allocation of the funds is provided by the exchequer.

As with any funding provided by the exchequer, there is a requirement for governance and accountability. There has to be prudent management and financial controls. While controls must be in place, the emergency nature of the response requires a system which is not cumbersome over overly bureaucratic.

In the case of small businesses, the controls that have been put in place for payment under the scheme includes that the business must have been trading at the time of the flooding incident and that the business must have been operating in a rateable premises.

This allows for the speedy turnaround in the processing of payments as once these details are verified by the relevant local authority and subject to the application form containing full details, the Irish Red Cross can then make a payment to the applicant for an amount up to €5,000.

The Irish Red Cross are continuing to receive application forms and payments are processed on a daily basis. The Irish Red Cross advise that 122 payments have been made to date.

The Minister for Defence has visited a number of sites affected by the flooding in recent weeks and has seen at first hand the difficulties many small businesses have experienced. In cases of particular hardship the Minister is, I understand, open to having the criteria reviewed where exceptional circumstances arise.

Joe McHugh T.D.
Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs

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